November Book Review Summary

Winter is Setting In

Here in Michigan's Upper Peninsula the weather took a turn to winter this month, as Halloween receded and Thanksgiving came near. That's fairly typical for our area. We can see winter weather as early as late October, though more usually from mid-November.

Outside of my book reading, the most exciting thing that happened this month was the felling of an 80 year old pine tree from our backyard. This beautiful pine tree was only a few feet from the house and had begun to rot near the base. In high winds it would sway very noticeably. We've lived with the risk for a few years now but finally it was time to bring the tree down and make sure it didn't smash through our roof one windy night.

Below is a picture of one of the tree cutters three quarters of the way up the tree. Because it was so close to the house the safest way to fell it was by climbing and cutting it down a section at a time: 

It snowed the day the tree came down. The cold weather and the end of daylight savings time has given us long November evenings just perfect for cozying up in my favorite reading chair near the fireplace with a good book. I managed to fit ten books in this month. As usual I've been heavy on the nonfiction, but I threw in a couple of classic YA fantasy books and two murder mysteries also.

Favorite book this month

My only Five Star reads this month was Kendra Atleework's Miracle Country, and it's an amazing memoir from a young, debut author. If you love beautiful writing and are a fan of memoir or history I can't recommend it enough.

Book Formats

Formats were pretty evenly split this month, with:
  • Four audiobooks (A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, Talking to Strangers, and Miracle Country
  • Three ebooks (A Natural History of the Future, The Forgotten Gun, and Murders at Blackwaterfoot
  • Three physical books (An Empire on the Edge, Matters of Principle, and The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books).
This means my two month streak of not reading a single physical book has (thankfully) been broken. Also, I think four audiobooks in one month is a bit high for me lately - it's a throwback to when I used to listen to audiobooks daily on the commute to and from work.


One ARC this month - A Natural History of Time - provided through NetGalley and Basic Books in exchange for a fair and honest review. (I'm not counting the Book Tour reviews this month, as both are previously published works).

Book Tours

Two book tours this month, for The Forgotten Gun and Murders in Blackwaterfoot, both through Love Book Tours. Both of these mystery books are from UK authors and feature UK settings.

Summary Reviews

Summary reviews of each of my November reads are below. The links in each summary review lead to my full review post for that book. All of those full reviews include links at the top of the post to the publisher's page for the book, along with the author's web page or internet presence; and at the bottom of the post are links to bookseller pages for each book. 

While there are no affiliate links in my past or current reviews, as of next month I expect to be including bookseller affiliate links in all my reviews going forward.

Four Stars ⭐⭐

A mix of science fiction and fantasy, fable and parable, the religious and the irreligious, this book has been one of the most commonly challenged (i.e. banned) books in the United States both for its religious themes and it's "supernatural" content. It is today considered a classic young adult book, but sadly was a book I'd never read until now.

Three Stars ⭐⭐⭐

Filled with the same mix of fantasy and science, fable, and religious references as the first book in the series, this is a darker tale, and as such, is not really as suitable for a younger audience. If the world and the epic journey of A Wrinkle in Time seem timeless and the main parable of the story broadly applicable, I'm afraid the same can't be said for A Wind in the Door.  It has not aged quite as well.

Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

An interesting and  well researched look at the American Revolution from the British perspective. The focus is on events from 1771 up to the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775, as seen through the preoccupations and workings of the British Parliament.  Tea, and what to do to protect British interests in the tea trade play a large part in Bunker's telling.

Three Stars ⭐⭐⭐

Humanity's negative impact on the environment is easy to see. Climate change is probably our largest unintended environmental impact - one that is already giving evidence to how detrimental it can be to humanity itself. In this book the author poses the question - Can we live within nature's laws, using them to our benefit, rather than facing the growing and adverse consequences of trying to "tame" nature?

Three and a Half Stars ⭐⭐⭐🌠

Broadly speaking this book is about strangers, and how we struggle to understand strangers, and in fact actively misunderstand them to our own as well as their detriment. It's certainly interesting and topical and done in a distinctly Gladwellian style. It's the conclusion that disappointed me - not his strongest book conclusion, and overall it didn't leave me with as many "aha" moments as his other books.

Three Stars  ⭐

In a debut novel you always wonder what you're going to get. Here you get a well thought out story with an excellent plot. The characters, on the other hand, are a mixed bag. Honestly though, in a crime story like this one, at just over 200 pages, you're not going to get back stories and loads of character development. The good news is that the story is written well enough that I had no trouble picturing the limited TV series it could become as I read. 

Five Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A superbly literary and lyrical work of creative nonfiction. Atleework's use of language is stunningly good for a debut work. Subjects range from the tragedy of Indian removal, the California drought, water removal from the Owens Valley for the sake of LA (the greatest good for the greatest number is a recurring theme), wildfires, the loss of her mother and the resulting crumbling of her family, her father's many careers, the eventual resolution of family matters, and her own return back home.

Three Stars ⭐

 Written in part as a rebuttal to Robert Bork's own book about his nomination to the Supreme Court, this book is by Mark Gitenstein, who served as the legal counsel to the Judiciary Committee and is a long-term confidant of Joe Biden. He covers the preparation of Committee Chair Biden and team for the hearings, as well as an explanation and takedown of Bork's judicial philosophy.

Three Stars ⭐⭐⭐

This book started off very slowly, but the second half was really good, and I'm glad I stuck with it. It's the story of Hernando Colon (Christopher Columbus' second and illegitimate son), and his quest to build a library of all the world's knowledge at a time when the printing press was transforming the world of books in Europe. 

Three Stars ⭐

A novella set on the island of Arran on Scotland's west coast. Arran is a picturesque island that attracts lots of tourists, a sleepy kind of place dotted with friendly villages like Lamlash, where we first meet Constable Rory Murdoch. The book's billing as a "crime thriller" is not quite right. There are two separate cases to solve, and Murdoch solves them more by capitalizing on lucky breaks than by any crime solving prowess. The book has humor, sadness and, at the end, an unexpected romance.